Saint Bernard Abbey is a monastery of Catholic Benedictine monks who, through prayer and work, strive to seek the love of God and neighbor.
In the 1840’s monks from Metten Abbey in Germany, a monastery founded c. 700 A.D., came to America to plant the Benedictine monastic life in the United States and to minister to the growing German-speaking immigrant population. St. Vincent’s Abbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania became the first foundation, and in the 1870’s monks from St. Vincent’s were sent to Alabama to serve the needs of German Catholics here. In 1891 those monks gathered to establish St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama.* One year later, 1892, a school was opened at the new Abbey.
At overlapping intervals from 1892 to 1979 the monks operated a high school, junior college, four-year college, and seminary. The present St. Bernard Preparatory School, opened in 1984, is the recipient of this Catholic educational heritage.
In 1934 the Ave Maria Grotto, a religious devotional creation of Brother Joseph Zoetle, O.S.B., was dedicated in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Abbey grounds. This garden walk through Brother Joseph’s miniature replicas of famous Old Testament and Christian buildings has welcomed visitors every day since. Most famous among the miniatures are the buildings of ancient Jerusalem, thus the creation’s popular name “Little Jerusalem”.
In 1981 the monks opened the St. Bernard Abbey Retreat and Conference Center. This center welcomes religious retreat and pilgrim groups as well as Abbey guests, school groups, and others.